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Drive: SLakeTahoe to SMF on Feb 4. How difficult?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
What would this drive be like if, say, it were snowing? Mapquest says it's 2 hours. Just wondering if we should stay completely away from the idea of flying out of Sacramento and just book flight out of Reno. Thanks!
post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim View Post
What would this drive be like if, say, it were snowing? Mapquest says it's 2 hours. Just wondering if we should stay completely away from the idea of flying out of Sacramento and just book flight out of Reno. Thanks!
If it's snowing it can take MUCH longer than 2 hours. Luckily though, with Sacramento being in the lowlands, you'd only have to worry about the snow until it hits the rain line...but really, a major storm could add 1, 2, 3 or more hours to the drive. i.e. accidents, Echo pass could shut down for avy control, etc.

then again, the same stuff could happen going the other way and flying out of Reno too.
post #3 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim View Post
What would this drive be like if, say, it were snowing? Mapquest says it's 2 hours. Just wondering if we should stay completely away from the idea of flying out of Sacramento and just book flight out of Reno. Thanks!
Depends, what are you driving? Do you have to chain up and down? Are you planning on going Hwy 50 or 80? I would give myself 4 hrs and pray.
One day going from Sierra at Tahoe to Pollock Pines (dry road 45 min drive) it took 5 hrs due to a wreck. I would probably go Reno, up the east side of the lake or over kingsbury grade to 395.
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mkevenson View Post
Depends, what are you driving? Do you have to chain up and down? Are you planning on going Hwy 50 or 80? I would give myself 4 hrs and pray.
One day going from Sierra at Tahoe to Pollock Pines (dry road 45 min drive) it took 5 hrs due to a wreck. I would probably go Reno, up the east side of the lake or over kingsbury grade to 395.
Thanks for the replies. We'd probably be driving a Subaru Outback that we would have rented when we came into RNO. I'm having some difficulty finding flights that I like for our departure back home out of RNO. That's why I was thinking going out of SMF. I've never been in the area. So, just thought I'd ask. Sounds like least stressful would be Reno and throw in a prayer or two as well.
post #5 of 22
In February it can be dicey...Prone to storms, but I've never really had too many problems getting in on 50.

It is usually a whole lot cheaper to fly into Sac than Reno although, which is what I do.

By the way, it's maybe 2-hours on a perfect day if you are flying...It's nearly a half an hour to downtown Sac from the airport and you still have hit 50 from there, which then takes another 40 minutes just to get to El Dorado Hills, then it's another easy 1-2 hours to get to South Shore.

If you are going to the north shore/west shore (Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Boreal, Donners ski ranch, NorthStar, Diamond Peak or Homewood) then it's easier to head to Yuba City/Marysville and drive up Hwy 20 through Grass Valley into Tahoe/Truckee.
post #6 of 22
yep, you have some high mountain passes(freeway style) and some of 89 out of south lake that could be chains, closed or 3 times the normal drive if a storm comes thru to sac. rno to south lake is usually easy unless 50 over the pass has storms, but you can usually get over that with chains without too much trouble.
if it were me and i could wait another day or 2, i'd head out of rno in jan. + feb.; but its a roll of the dice. could be sunny and 40 too.
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the responses. I'm convinced to book the flights into and out of Reno even if we have to go on the cattle car known as Southwest. Actually, they are fun to fly once you manage to snag some good seats together. And I'm probably going to FedEx our sticks. (Never done that before. Yikes!) I never realized getting from Boston to Tahoe would involve such expensive flights, most of which are terrible schedules. No, I don't want to arrive in Reno at 9:30 pm. Even though I have yet to set boot on the place, I'm thinking it's not going to turn out to be a return to ski destination. We shall see.

Chains? We won't have chains. They aren't required if you have AWD, are they? We're renting an Outback.

Thanks again.
post #8 of 22
Chains can be required in heavy conditions (level three), even with AWD. That said, in my experience, they usually shut the roads first.

Where are you planning to ski and how long?
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
We will be at the Marriott Timber Lodge (timeshare exchange) for a Sunday-to-Sunday week. We bought the Heavenly season pass as it seemed to be a good deal since we are likely to ski 7 1/2 days. We will keep an eye on the weather and consider heading to other mountains if the conditions are better. My parents, who live in Memphis, started skiing late in life, and therefore haven't spent a lot of time on skis, are joining us for the week. However, they arrive a day or two before us. They will probably be content with skiing at Heavenly for however much time they ski. And with our season passes, we can get them discounted tickets. We are thinking of trying to get to Tahoe on Saturday, a day earlier than our timeshare week begins, to make the most of our trip! Just can't figure out where to stay for one night.
post #10 of 22
Definitely arrive in Reno, you´re on vacation! Spend that one day in Reno´s casinos, if you have the time drive to Virginia City (pretty old and western), then drive further south and spend the night in Carson City (45 min. from Heavenly), or just spend the night in Reno, depart following morning at 7AM and you´ll be skiing by 9AM. Heavenly will keep your attenttion for 2-3 days (lotsa long traverses). MUST DO squaw and Alpine Meadows, and consider Mt. ROSE and HOMEWOOD.

In Reno, MUST visit In and Out Burger, they are TONS better than the standard Mcd and BK.

Enjoy!
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kim View Post
We will be at the Marriott Timber Lodge (timeshare exchange) for a Sunday-to-Sunday week. We bought the Heavenly season pass as it seemed to be a good deal since we are likely to ski 7 1/2 days. We will keep an eye on the weather and consider heading to other mountains if the conditions are better. My parents, who live in Memphis, started skiing late in life, and therefore haven't spent a lot of time on skis, are joining us for the week. However, they arrive a day or two before us. They will probably be content with skiing at Heavenly for however much time they ski. And with our season passes, we can get them discounted tickets. We are thinking of trying to get to Tahoe on Saturday, a day earlier than our timeshare week begins, to make the most of our trip! Just can't figure out where to stay for one night.
There are many mom and pop motels within walking distance of the gondola. We have stayed at the Blue Jay Inn (motel) many times and it is comfortable and reasonable. Two short blocks from Tahoe Blvd.
post #12 of 22
Kim, You made the righ choice flying in and out of Reno. Skiing the entire week at Heavenly - that's just insane.
post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by crank View Post
Kim, You made the righ choice flying in and out of Reno. Skiing the entire week at Heavenly - that's just insane.
ok! ok! So, I've still got some marbles. Hey, we'll have a car, we'll be open to going with the snow. Thanks for encouraging us to get off our butts.
post #14 of 22
Make sure when you rent to car, ask the agent about chains needed or not. You have a good size pass to cross over ( Spooner on US 50. )
I live on top of Kingsbury grade, own t 4 wheel drives, and have yet to chain them up. Yet i have no problems driving up n down Kingsbury, or anywhere as far as this is concerned.
Once in So Lake Tahoe, just park the car, ride the bus system, you'll save your self from alot of frustration, with the snow removal process, and the crazies who think they know how to drive in snow , but in reality, have no clue
They are good, but they can be better at removing the snow from the roads.
Most importanly, get out and try some of the other resorts. I think you will get board with spending 7 days at Heavenly.
Othe resorts do have shuuttles.
post #15 of 22
Wow what a difficult trip, Boston to South Lake Tahoe! Just kidding.

For the last 6 years we have been visiting Tahoe, usually Christmas time or early January but also March.
From where?
The UK.
Flight from London Heathrow to San Fransisco (we have to drive to London Heathrow the night before and over night at an Airport Hotel) then Drive to South Lake from SFO. We always hire an SUV (first time we had a compact and chains, never again). The Drive takes from 4-5.5 hrs depending on conditions and we have driven in in some major storms. Last 2 years we did the flight from SFO to Reno, last year with delays we could have driven faster but the year before it was the big storm and we probably wouldn't have got in over I50. This year we will drive from SFO.
We always stay in South Lake but rarely ski at Heavenly mostly we drive to Kirkwood but we usually do some trips to Alpine and Squaw. Kirkwood is my favorite and the drive from South Lake is spectacular.
If you are driving in snow and are not used to it, keep your speed down and leave plenty of room for braking remember 4x4 is of no use when you hit the brakes. You canna change the laws of physics!
post #16 of 22
unless its murder checking in skis from boston, i'd recommend checking them and not shipping them. reno airport is not very large. getting your luggage, skis and car rental is relatively easy and all at the same place comapred to denver or BWI.
i also say to at least find out the shuttles to squaw, kirkwood and sierra from south lake while your there. i like heavenly, but you'll find most here will say to go to tahoe and not hit kirkwood and squaw is crazy.
and, again; dont get too concerned about the drive. coming from RNO is easy, you have one pass on a very good highway that only causes problems if the storm is on top of it. once you get to south lake, everything is a short drive or walking distance and the ski shuttles are easy to catch.
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by skicougar View Post
i also say to at least find out the shuttles to squaw, kirkwood and sierra from south lake while your there. i like heavenly, but you'll find most here will say to go to tahoe and not hit kirkwood and squaw is crazy.
Well, having skied pretty much only at Tahoe for the past seven seasons, and having never made it to Kirkweed, I'm not sure I'd go that far.

But certainly, from South Lake, I'd seriously consider at least one day at Kirkwood based on what I've heard.

And your best bet to get to Squaw (or Alpine, for that matter) is probably the boat -- I think it's called the Tahoe Queen -- between SLT and Tahoe City.
post #18 of 22

Sacramento or Reno

Every few years we remind ourselves why we don't ever ski Heavenly. It doesn't take long but there are some good runs like Gunbarrel/West Face in the morning before the bodies start stacking up. Kirkwood is quite a drive, especially in winter, as is Sierra at Tahoe in bad weather. My aversion to Heavenly may well be a North vs. South Shore thing though. No aversion to either of the other two South Shore resorts though :

The drive from South Shore to Sacramento is a crap shoot because the storms come in from the Pacific every two or three days and dump on the western slopes while Reno is on the east of the Sierra in tha 'rain' shadow and gets considerably less snow. The obvious route from South Shore to Sacramento is Highway 50 which closes due to avalanche control while I-80 tends to stay open a lot more predictably but gets worse wind blown white-out conditions. It can take anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours to get to Sacramento in winter. Reno is far more reliable.

The drive from South Shore to the North Shore resorts can be a challenge - frequently the western route (89) is closed due to avalanche danger at Emerald Bay although the eastern route is usually open until the 'accidents' close it down. I've never taken the boat but can see how it could work out OK, especially for Squaw.

Please be very scared when driving in poor (or marginal) conditions. Ignore the p*ss*d off locals and take your time.
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
Taking note of all the info. Thanks guys!
post #20 of 22
I have lived in Sacramento for 25 years and generally do about 6-8 trips to Tahoe each winter. That being said, most trips are to the North Shore. But Heavenly has some great skiing and the best views in North America. Throw in the casino atmosphere at night, and it will make for a great trip.
Hints:
1. if saving money is important, you are pretty safe flying into Sacramento. Storms tend to be intense (dump a lot of snow) but few and far between and CALTRANS does pretty well in clearing US 50. Reno is closer and 395 does get less snow, so, if you think the small risk of the road being worse from Sacto, then spend the extra money and fly into Reno.
2) If you have 4 wheel drive, don't worry about chains. As someone above said, if the snow is so bad that you need 4WD and chains, they generally close the road anyway.
3) You won't be bored at Heavenly for several days, but if you find yourself wanting to try something else, Kirkwood has a few very challenging runs as does Sierra at Tahoe. Each are good for one day and are a lot easier to get to than the North Shore.
4) If you are an expert skiier though, you may think the long trip (either take the Tahoe Queen or drive around the lake - eastshore as the westshore road closes at Emerald Bay for the winter) to Squaw Valley is worth it.
5) The Marriott timeshare (Timbercreek Lodge) is a great property in a great location.
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thank you, Ravinblue, for the reply. Good info and very comforting!
post #22 of 22
Reno!!!
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Drive: SLakeTahoe to SMF on Feb 4. How difficult?